Friday, March 25, 2005

Tony Blair: FU Chirac, I still win!

EU: Chirac's victory in stopping deregulation seems to be short-lived.

"TONY Blair yesterday claimed that Britain now has the power to force France and Germany to open up to foreign workers and accept the European Union Services Directive against their will. The Prime Minister told MPs that, far from losing a battle with Jacques Chirac over the directive, he has returned home with an agreement that it will be decided by a vote in the enlarged European Union. He believes this means Britain can join forces with Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia to force their vision of a reformed Europe on France and Germany - representing a landmark defeat of "New Europe" over "Old Europe". Reporting on what is expected to be his last EU summit ahead of the general election, Mr Blair told the Commons that he was prepared for a battle over the future of the European "social model", to be defined for all 25 member states. "Some, notably France, believe this model should remain in its existing form. Some, like Britain, believe firmly in Europe’s social dimension but want it updated to take account of modern economic reality," he said. Reports suggested that he had caved in to Mr Chirac’s demands, by agreeing to redraft the directive. But Mr Blair said: "Fortunately, the final decision will be by QMV [qualified majority voting]." Mr Blair’s official spokesman said that at a dinner for heads of governments on Tuesday night, the Prime Minister became satisfied that he had enough support among the new members to win a vote. "The opinion round the table was very much in our favour," said the spokesman. When asked whether France and Germany would ever be forced to open their markets, he said: "It’s a Europe of 25, and it’s 25 who will decide."

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